The 'Death' of Direct Mail and Catalogs
I’m not a big fan of naysayers. Your typical naysayer has a particular agenda that's contrary to the “nay” that they're “saying.” For instance, pure-play internet marketers cast a shadow of impending doom on the direct mail industry. Why? Simple: They don’t benefit from the competition.
In recent years, direct mail, and for the most part direct marketing, has been positioned as old-school, obsolete, “doesn’t work” and just plain bad. When queried, direct and nondirect mailers will tell you direct mail is dead. It's when nonmailers get into the act that I get worried.
I get it. Direct mailers already have a reputation as junk mailers. So while catalogers haven't been hit as hard by the junk mail tag, in large part due to their value to shoppers as name brands, the mailing industry as a whole is threatened.
Can’t we all just get along? Actually, no. Every time I turn around, there's a new name and/or affront to direct mail. First it was push marketing. (We were being too pushy!) Then it was outbound marketing. (“They” coined the phrase “inbound marketing.”) The term I hear all the time these days that makes my blood boil is “intrusion” marketing.
Who creates these monikers? Answer: marketers.
And while referring to direct marketers as intrusion marketers, they've named themselves “attraction” marketers. Let’s attract; let’s start a conversation; let's communicate. Oh please!
So I'd like to take this opportunity to set the record straight for those who put forth the garbage that direct mail intrudes. Consider the following:
1. Direct mail isn't going to die anytime soon. Direct marketers will evolve, survive and thrive. By taking advantage of personalization and the multitude of tools online, direct marketers’ response rates will increase.
2. Your goal is to be relevant. Direct marketers don’t want to mail to people who don’t want to receive their offers. And those consumers who don’t want to receive catalogs/direct mail can turn to suppression services such as Catalog Choice and the Direct Marketing Association's mail preference service. All mailers should run those suppression files against their prospect lists, not their housefiles.
3. So-called “intrusion” marketers set the rules for direct marketing and internet marketing. They've created a medium that's all about measurement and metrics. Direct marketers are responsible for the tools that differentiate themselves from those dot-bomb sock puppet marketers, so why are they dissing you?
4. You'd think there's room for all types of media in today's marketing mix. Direct marketers don’t bad-mouth pull marketing. They embrace it, use it, measure it — and if it works, roll out with it. They're driven purely by return on investment. If it works, they love it.
5. Direct marketers have taken big hits on paper and postage rates, the economy, even anthrax in the last decade, but they continue to soldier on. The truth is, they still get response and ROI. If not, they'd stop mailing. Consumers still buy via the mail, and will continue to do so.
The bottom line: Don’t buy into the self-fulfilling prophesy that direct mail is a dead medium. It ain’t! My clients are seeing good to excellent results in the mail. Just follow the principles of direct marketing and you'll succeed.
Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing Inc., a full-service catalog, direct marketing and social media agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/jimwgilbert. You can email him at email@example.com, follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/gilbertdirect or read his blog at gilbertdirectmarketing.wordpress.com/.
Jim Gilbert has had a storied career in direct and digital marketing resulting in a burning desire to tell stories that educate, inform, and inspire marketers to new heights of success.
After years of marketing consulting, Jim decided it was time to “put his money where his mouth was" and build his own e-commerce company, Premo Natural Products, with its flagship product, Premo Guard Bed Bug & Mite Sprays. Premo in its second year is poised to eclipse 100 percent growth.
Jim has been writing for Target Marketing Group since 2006, first on the pages of Catalog Success Magazine, then as the first blogger for its online division. Jim continues to write for Total Retail.
Along the way, Jim has led the Florida Direct Marketing Association as their Marketing Chair and then three-term President, been an Adjunct Professor of Direct and Digital marketing for Miami International University, and created a lecture series, “The 9 Immutable Laws of Social Media Marketing,” which he has presented across the country at conferences and universities.